Recruitment into the Planning law sector has continued at an elevated level throughout 2014. Many firms are continuing to grow fuelled by increased confidence and optimism in the economy and the burgeoning real estate sector. The predicted race for talent acquisition has also encouraged more lawyers into the area which bodes well for the future.
The most in demand level in 2014 has been at 0-4 years with many juniors being in an enviable position of having a number of firms competing for their talents. Newly qualified solicitors in particular have seen very high retention rates and where they have looked externally, this has often led to a number of offers. This year has also seen talented public sector trainees and solicitors make the transition to private practice which in previous years has proven to be very challenging.
Additionally, the second half of 2014 has seen an improved picture for overseas solicitors wishing to pursue a career in planning. As firms have not been able to fill their vacancies with mid-level solicitors they have been turning to overseas lawyers with equivalent planning experience to fill the gap.
In a much more competitive market clients are advised to be shrewd in their hiring strategies and we suggest that moving quickly and decisively is going to help you secure the right candidate for your role. As options for candidates have increased, the dynamic between interviewer and interviewee has become a lot more two way and altered the courting process quite significantly. If you are hiring with the assistance of a recruitment consultant it will be worth getting fully briefed as to what the candidate’s primary driving forces are behind their potential move. They may be looking to diversify the type of projects they work on, move to a larger team, move to a firm that can offer them prospects, or move for a better work-life balance (in many cases a multiple of these). Whatever it is, fore-warned is fore-armed, enabling you to dwell on the need satisfaction areas. Of course, the candidate will still need to demonstrate that they are the right fit, but having this information in advance may well give you an advantage over your rivals.
If the candidate performs well then let them know you are keen. However, if there is a time consuming process to follow then make sure that you follow it up and keep the communication lines open. Often candidates come out of interviews very enthused which leaves a window of opportunity to cement this with swift positive and constructive feedback. If the process is left to drag, any post interview euphoria can quickly melt, which may make it more difficult to convince a candidate to accept an offer down the line. Even if you have a number of candidates to consider, swift feedback and a clear plan which is communicated to the candidate will help make the process smoother and will lead to a better hiring experience for all.
Another thing to consider in this busy market is the re-emergence of the counter offer. As the volume of work has increased, firms are more reluctant to lose key members of staff so are resorting to counter offers to make them stay. Sometimes this is financial, sometimes emotional and often both. While you cannot always prevent a candidate accepting a counter offer you can put strategies in place to minimise the chances of this becoming an issue at the end of the process. Ask your recruiter if they discussed the prospects of a counter offer with their candidate. During the interview process it may be sensible to discuss what may happen when the candidate goes to resign so that they can begin to think about the consequences of what may happen. This should get the candidate thinking about the mental process of moving on and also means that the prospect of a counter offer may not be a complete shock, thereby avoiding a panicked decision without clear thought.
It seems that we have become so used to a limited amount of hiring since 2008 that the busy market is taking some adjusting to. However, I maintain that if you are clear in what you ultimately need to achieve and can offer flexibility in reaching that goal by acting decisively and with momentum then you will be in a better position to hire the right candidates.
Stuart Phillips is a Senior Consultant with Origin Legal and can be contacted on 01206 233504 or 07725 246857 or at [email protected]